The Influence of Neighboring Cultures on Medieval Japan

Exploring the civilization of Japan from about 500 to 1700 C.E. Introduction Together, the Japanese islands make up an area about the size of Montana. Japan’s four large islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Of these, you can see that Honshu is the largest and most centrally located. To the west, the Sea of[…]

The Paleolithic Period of Prehistoric Japan

The study of the Paleolithic period in Japan did not begin until quite recently: the first Paleolithic site was not discovered until 1946. Curated/Reviewed by Matthew A. McIntoshPublic HistorianBrewminate Introduction The Japanese Paleolithic period is the period of human inhabitation in Japan predating the development of pottery, generally before 10,000 BC.[1] The starting dates commonly given to this[…]

Religion and State: The Influence of the Tokugawa in Japan, 1600-1868

Buddhism, Shintoism, and Neo-Confucianism and how the Tokugawa state used these religions to their advantage. The Tokugawa period in Japan began in 1600 and lasted until 1868, and was an era of peace throughout the realm. Before this time, Japan had experienced years of warfare between the different provinces, with various daimyo, or lords, fighting[…]

Hokusai’s Printed Illustrated Books in 19th-Century Japan

The technology of printing had advanced rapidly as it became available to commercial publishers in the seventeenth century. Introduction Katsushika Hokusai is among the most celebrated Japanese painters in the world. His print Under the Wave off Kanagawa, or The Great Wave (1830) is instantly recognizable. While Hokusai is primarily known today for his prints[…]

Samurai: The Rise of the Warrior Class in Medieval Japan

The era of the samurai lasted for 700 years, until the emperor was restored to power in 1868. Introduction During the Heian period, Japan experienced a golden age. That period was followed by civil war. In this chapter, you will learn about the rise of a powerful warrior class in Japan—the samurai . Minamoto Yoritomo[…]

Heian-kyo: The Heart of Japan’s Medieval Government

Introduction The culture of medieval Japan was rich and varied due to exchanges with other Asian peoples. In this chapter, you will see how a unique Japanese culture flowered from the 9th to the 12th centuries. As you may know, Japan is close enough to the mainland of Asia to be affected by cultural ideas[…]

Amabie: A Disease-Fighting Mermaid of Japanese Lore

The world has become enchanted with a three-legged mermaid called Amabie, said to help fight plague. Last spring, in western Tokyo, my research assistant Payton Letko came upon an unusual treat in a small bakery: pastries in the shape of the Japanese folklore creature Amabie, a three-legged sea creature with scales and long flowing hair,[…]

Russian Envoys and Post-Imperial Narratives in Early-20th Century China and Japan

Downtown Tokyo in the 1920s / Creative Commons During the 1920s, Soviet cultural authorities sought to develop a new, post-imperialist literature that would acknowledge a “new East”. By Dr. Katerina Clark Professor of :Comparative Literature and of Slavic Languages and Literatures Yale University Abstract   Sergei Tretiakov (left) and Boris Pilniak (right) / Public Domain During[…]

Responses of China and Japan to the West in the 19th Century

Nanjing Jinling Arsenal 1865, built by Li Hongzhang / Wikimedia Commons In the 19th century, after a long period of isolationism, China and then Japan came under pressure from the West to open to foreign trade and relations. By Giulia Valentini / 12.2012 Contracts and Administrative Assistant European Climate Foundation In the 19th century, after a long[…]

Feudal Japan: The Age of the Warrior

Japanese imperial family / Wikimedia Commons The collapse of aristocratic rule ushered in a new age of chaos — appropriately called the Warring States period (c.1400-1600) — in which military might dictated who governed and who followed. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 09.23.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief Introduction While most samurai warriors were men, some[…]

Japan from the Edo Period to the Meiji Restoration

Floats for the Kanda Festival, 1843 / Photo by Daderot, Edo-Tokyo Museum, Wikimedia Commons Looking at Japan’s growth and change from the Early Modern to Modern worlds. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 08.17.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief The Edo Period The Edo period (1603-1868), when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate,[…]

The Lingering Imperial Self-Identity of Japan as a Warrior Nation

Japanese soldiers of the Sino-Japanese War. Wikimedia Commons As Japanese imperialism rose and fell, its leaders interpreted and re-interpreted a single distinctive concept: “bushido”. By Dr. Oleg Benesch / 12.22.2017 Senior Lecturer in East Asian History University of York In a warning to China on the eve of his first trip to Asia in November 2017, the US president, Donald Trump, called[…]

How Did 4th-Century Roman Coins End Up in a Medieval Japanese Castle?

Roman coins were discovered in Katsuren castle in Uruma, Okinawa, southwestern Japan. EPA/Uruma City Education Board Is this evidence that Rome traded with Japan? Almost certainly not. By Dr. Kevin Butcher / 10.03.2016 Professor of Classics and Ancient History University of Warwick The recent discovery of Roman coins in controlled excavations of a castle in Japan prompted the inevitable[…]

The Art and Architecture of Ancient and Early Medieval Japan

Old painting of Himeji castle / Wikimedia Commons Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 04.07.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief 1 – Prehistoric Japan 1.1 – Ceramics in the Jomon Period Pottery from the prehistoric Jōmon period in Japan is thought by many scholars to be the oldest ever discovered. 1.1.1 – Overview Prehistoric art of Japan[…]

Babe Ruth in a Kimono: How Baseball Diplomacy Fortified US-Japan Relations

Tokyoites watch Hideo Nomo pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers at Sony Plaza on June 30, 1995. Shizuo Kambayashi/AP Photo By Dr. Steven Wisensale / 03.27.2018 Professor of Public Policy University of Connecticut On Feb. 9, 2001, an American submarine, the USS Greenville, surfaced beneath the Ehime Maru, a Japanese ship filled with high school students[…]

Inside the Photography of Ishiuchi Miyako

ひろしま/hiroshima #9 (Ogawa Ritsu), 2007, Ishiuchi Miyako. Chromogenic print. © Ishiuchi Miyako 70 years after the bombing of Hiroshima, the Japanese artist imbues women’s objects from the event with a ghostly presence. By Amanda Maddox / 08.06.2015 Assistant Curator, Department of Photographs J. Paul Getty Museum For the last eight years, Ishiuchi Miyako has traveled[…]

The Untold Story of Japan’s First People

Portrait of two Ainu men from Sakhalin, photo by Bronislaw Pilsudski / National Museum of Natural History, National Anthropological Archives, Wikimedia Commons In the 20th century, Japanese anthropologists and officials tried to hide the existence of the Indigenous.  Then the Ainu fought back like their cousins, the bears. By Jude Isabella / 10.25.2017 Editor-in-Chief, Hakai Magazine Itek[…]

The Nuclear National Family: Japan, Fukushima, and Societal Fissures

The Fukushima disaster exposed fissures in Japanese society that its familial politics tries to paper over.    By Mari Matsumoto (left) and Sabu Kohso (right) / 09.15.2017 In the history of nuclear disaster, Fukushima stands out in its singularity. There, two kinds of disasters were intermixed: the earthquake/tsunami, and the nuclear explosion. On March 11,[…]